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‘Significant concern’ over number of GPNs approaching retirement in Wales

‘Significant concern’ over number of GPNs approaching retirement in Wales

Concern over the age profile of general practice nurses (GPNs) has been raised by Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW), with increasing numbers reaching retirement age.

The issue is addressed in HEIW’s newly published Strategic Workforce Plan for Primary Care 2024/25-2029/30, created in partnership with the Strategic Programme for Primary Care (SPPC) and in collaboration with a range of stakeholders.

According to the workforce plan, around 50% of the 1,400 GPNs in Wales are aged over 50, with one in five nurses aged over 60 and only 22% under 40.

The document describes this age profile as ‘heavily skewed’ and ‘a significant concern’ as large numbers of GPNs approach retirement. It also notes that data confirms there is ‘significant work’ to attract nurses into general practice at a much earlier stage in their careers.

According to the plan’s assessment, over the next 10 years around 75 primary care nurses (excluding community nurses) will need to be trained every year in Wales to offset increasing demand and gaps as nurses retire from the workplace.

One of the key actions of the plan includes the introduction of preceptorship to offer a period of structured transition to guide and support newly qualified GPNs.

In addition, the document said increasing the wider skillset of nursing staff in primary care is ‘central to meeting future demands, particularly in the management of long-term conditions’.

Of the 1,400 GPNs, more than 400 nurses are identified as working in an ‘advanced or extended role or as a nurse specialist’ and less than 10 nurses are identified as a nurse partner.

In total, the workforce plan identifies 26 actions to improve primary care in Wales and improve workforce morale.

Alex Howells, HEIW chief executive, said: ‘HEIW has been working to expand and improve education, training and workforce development in primary care since its establishment, but the launch of the Strategic Workforce Plan for Primary Care will provide even more momentum to support the development of a sustainable primary care workforce.’

The plan acknowledges the ‘invaluable role’ that GPNs play within GP practices, noting that the group equates to 1,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) roles in Wales, with every practice in the country employing at least one GPN.

Across Wales the average number of GPNs ranges from 45 FTE per 100,000 patients in Powys to just over 25 FTE per 100,000 patients in Cwm Taf Morgannwg, with the Wales average of 32 per 100,000 patients.

A report by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in Wales warned last year that the ageing GPN workforce in the country could have a ‘devastating impact’ on the delivery of primary care.

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